In some cases, the only thing worse than a job you hate is no job at all. So, if you're not in the position to walk away from your current job while you're looking to go someplace else, you'll want to keep your job search on the down low. Here are some tips for doing that.
Don't tell anyone at your current job that you're looking for a new job.
I know this one is tricky for many people. It's hard to keep something like a job search from coming up in conversation when you're bonding with your co-workers over chicken wings during lunch. Also, if you do land a job and give your notice, the co-workers you feel particularly close with may feel hurt by your keeping a secret from them. But the only way you can keep something entirely quiet is to keep it to yourself.
Use your own voice mail, email, etc., in your job search.
Not only is the use of company resources unethical but their usage may be monitored.
Use non-company contact information
List only home or cell phone numbers on your resume. It would be pretty difficult to field recruiter calls in your office with no one finding out, unless you sit in a windowless office with lead walls. And if you suddenly shut your door after you answer your phone, people will make their own assumptions, with a secretive job search being the best of the assumptions; the worst being that you're having an affair or that your doctor is calling to prescribe a medication you don't want anyone knowing about.
Interview on your own time
I don't know about you, but if I dress up at my office, about 30 people will ask if me if I have a job interview. It's tempting to answer, "No, I'm attending a funeral but thanks for making light of it," just to see them squirm. But the fact is interviewing during regular business hours is kind of obvious, even if you think you're being James Bond cool. And unless you use your lunch hour to do it, it's also kind of unethical.
If you're interviewing at a lot of places, try to schedule them all within the same day and take a personal day from work. If the interview is only available during work hours, try to schedule it near the end of the day and build in some extra time to go home and change first.
Guard your privacy online
Most online job search engines will allow you to block certain companies from seeing your information. Take advantage of this and block your current company. Also, you should use your social networking tools discreetly. Do send private emails to those on your LinkedIn contact lists but don't post daily Facebook updates on your attempts to flee the living hell of a job your currently have.
Keep it confidential
Tell the companies you're interviewing with that your job search is confidential. Most interviewers will understand that fact perfectly.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.